Signs of Heroin Use and Addiction

Last Updated: September 22, 2023

Short Term Symptoms of Heroin Use

Heroin is known to produce relaxing and euphoric effects. Like other opioids, heroin prevents the brain from perceiving pain and as a result, someone who uses the drug can feel tranquil and carefree throughout the short-lived high. If someone has a history of drug use, they may be able to hide signs and symptoms of their heroin addiction.

It is important to look for specific signs that are visible during and after heroin use and are not as easy to conceal. Some of the visible symptoms of heroin addiction may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Small pupils
  • Cycles of hyper-alertness followed by sudden fatigue
  • Sudden changes in behavior or actions
  • Lack of interest in hobbies
  • Disorientation
  • Tired appearance

Side Effects of Heroin Use

Heroin use can have major consequence on an individual’s life. Effects of heroin addiction can be physical, psychological and affect all of someone’s close relationships. If heroin use continues for an extended period of time, a tolerance for the drug is likely to develop and physical dependence usually follows. Some of the effects of heroin addiction may include:

  • Sleep problems
  • Financial issues
  • Neglected appearance
  • Work or school challenges
  • Overdose, disease, suicide or death

Physical Side Effects of Heroin Use

With heroin use, the effects are usually accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth and heavy feeling in the arms and legs.  Nausea, vomiting and severe itching all over the body may also occur. People with heroin use disorder may be drowsy for several hours after the initial effects. Brain function usually becomes clouded and the person’s breathing slows to a life-threatening pace. The slowed breathing can lead to coma or brain damage.

Repeated heroin use changes the physical structure and physiology of the brain, creating long-term imbalances in the nerves and hormones that are not easily fixed. Deterioration of the brain caused by heroin use may affect decision-making abilities, behavior and responses to stressful situations.

Developing adverse health-related consequences when using heroin intravenously is common. A few common diseases or medical conditions may include contracting HIV or AIDS, Hepatitis C or causing a collapsed vein.

Heroin Overdose

A heroin overdose can occur after the first time using the drug. Overdose may occur when someone uses an amount of heroin that produces a life-threatening condition or even death.

In 2016 approximately 15,500 people died from drug overdoses involving heroin. When someone overdoses on heroin, the amount of oxygen reaching the brain decreases. A deficit in oxygen to the brain can cause short and long-term mental and physical effects, including coma and permanent brain damage

Heroin Overdose Symptoms

  • It can be difficult to tell if someone is experiencing a drug overdose. Because overdoses can be life-threatening, it is critical to get medical assistance as soon as symptoms appear. Symptoms of an overdose from an injected heroin dose will typically begin about 10 minutes after use and can include: Loss of consciousness
  • Breathing slows or stopped
  • Bluish tint to the skin on lighter-skinned people and greyish tint to the skin to darker-skinned people
  • Choking sounds or a snore-like gurgling noise (sometimes called the “death rattle”)
  • Vomiting
  • Body is limp and t unresponsive to stimuli
  • Face is pale or clammy
  • Fingernails and lips turn blue or purplish black
  • Pulse is slow, erratic, or not there at all

Signs of Heroin Overdose

A Heroin overdose can affect several body systems. An overdose caused by heroin use requires medical attention. The level of toxicity of heroin may be related to the purity of the heroin or the presence of poisonous substances added to the dose.  Some common signs associated with a heroin overdose can include:

  • Bluish lips or nails
  • Disorientation and drowsiness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Delirium
  • Miniscule pupils
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed pulse
  • Coma

If you or someone you know is currently struggling with heroin addiction, help is available. At The Orlando Recovery Center, a team of professionals provide medically-supervised heroin detox and comprehensive heroin addiction treatment programs that can be designed to suit the patient’s specific disorders. To learn more about which program could work for you, call the Orlando Recovery Center to speak with a representative.

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When you call our team, you will speak to a Recovery Advocate who will answer any questions and perform a pre-assessment to determine your eligibility for treatment. If eligible, we will create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. If The Recovery Village is not the right fit for you or your loved one, we will help refer you to a facility that is. All calls are 100% free and confidential.

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